About 802 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat on a regular basis, according to a new report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). That number, about 24 percent of the world’s population, represents a reduction by about 12 million people identified as food-insecure since 2011.
Over the next 10 years, food insecurity likely will affect even more people globally, according to the report. The authors project a percentage decline from 24 to 21 percent food insecure, but the actual number of food-insecure people will increase by 37 million, reflecting growth in the global population.
For this report, the agency defines food insecurity as when per capita food consumption for a country or income class falls short of the nutritional target of roughly 2,100 calories per person per day.
Not surprisingly, food insecurity is concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by the lower income Asian countries. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 24 percent of the population of the 76 countries covered in the report, but has 44 percent of the number of food-insecure people in 2012. Asia accounts for 66 percent of the population and 50 percent of the food-insecure people. Over the next decade, the report projects the number of food-insecure people in Sub-Saharan Africa will decrease by 4.3 percent.
In addition numbers of food-insecure people, the report also assesses the distribution gap, defined as the difference between projected food availability and the food needed to increase consumption in food-deficit income groups within individual countries to meet the recommended nutritional target.
Globally, the distribution gap increased between 2011 and 2012, suggesting that while food insecurity has not spread, it has generally intensified in lower-income countries. Over the next 10 years, the report projects the distribution gap will worsen in Sub-Saharan Africa and improve in Asia and Latin America, resulting in a slight increase globally.
The authors note that the rise in world food prices over the past four years and limited progress in improving food security have brought food and agricultural development to the forefront of global policy discussions. However, limited inadequate physical and human resources in some of the poorest regions, coupled with population growth, will limit agricultural development, suggesting food production will need to increase elsewhere. “Providing adequate food for growing populations requires at least a comparable increase in food availability,” the authors write, “if not a larger increase to compensate for unequal purchasing power and to support improved diets.”
A summary and the complete report are available from USDA/ERS.